True D&I is more than a stock job ad statement

Do you include a statement within your job advert copy that addresses your commitment to diversity and inclusion? Is there also a statement or maybe even an entire page on your recruitment website dedicated to D&I? Many recruiters and other businesses have started to include such statements over the past few years and that is to be applauded.

However, what is vital is that it is backed by action that proves that it’s not just a box-ticking activity. With Pride Month prompting a swathe of rainbows across businesses and recruitment agencies posting declarations of D&I policies on job ads and websites, we look at the efforts businesses can make to actively be more inclusive and support diverse communities.

The vast majority of recruitment businesses and their clients do truly want to be more inclusive so what can they do? What can you do? Firstly, listen. Listen to your diverse colleagues and candidates, ask them for their ideas, let them direct you on the policies, procedures and actions that would spark real change. Secondly, recognise that ‘diverse’ covers a huge number of different groups and the right action will be different for each one but all should be heard. Thirdly, there is nothing wrong with promoting your commitment to D&I as long as you display the actions you are taking. This could be detail about relevant D&I courses you organise or a page on your website discussing the charities and organisations you support and the fund-raising and awareness events you run. 

Taking the time to get your job ad right from a D&I standpoint is crucial. It is often the first point of contact a candidate will have with an organisation and/or a recruiter and words matter. WaveTrackR data revealed that ‘diversity’ and ‘diversity inclusion’ were among the top keywords searched for by candidates. The importance of gender-neutral wording in job ads also cannot be overstated – an Appcast report found that the cost per application for gender-neutral job ads is 41% lower than those with coded words. Gender-neutral job ads receive more applications from both men and women. 

Another reason women and other diverse candidates can be deterred from applying for a job is an ad that is crammed full of ‘must-haves’. There have been various studies that have found that men feel confident enough to apply for a job if they meet 60% of the criteria, yet women need to believe that they can tick at least 80% of the boxes before they will apply for a job. There are similar findings for BAME and disabled candidates. How many of the must-haves on your job ad really are must-haves and how many could be overcome by other relevant skills and experience? Simply addressing the wording, the format and the content of your job ad could signal to diverse candidates that your client is an inclusive employer and you take D&I seriously. 

Also important is the inclusion in your job ad of inclusive features and employee benefits that would flag that D&I is woven into the fabric of the company. For example, a recent study by The Centre for Global Development found that women were burdened with around three times as much unpaid childcare as men during the pandemic, leading to large numbers having to leave the workforce. Jobs that offer flexible working or childcare benefits, therefore, demonstrate in a very real way a company’s commitment to D&I. Wellbeing initiatives can also help various groups feel like they are supported and that the company cares. 

Look at the imagery on your website – what demographic features in them? If they’re filled with a single type of person, that can unconsciously send a damaging message. Also ensure you celebrate your diverse staff with a Meet the Team page including photos and a brief bio of each one. Sometimes companies are held back in their D&I efforts by a fear of getting it wrong but recognising that change is required is a great first step. It can be hard to relate to people who are not like us, it is a quirk of human nature, but this is where it is so important to listen. Invite guest speakers, hold webinars, simply talk to diverse individuals.

There is no doubt that a D&I statement is still important and should be included but candidates look for a sense of empathy in it to gauge sincerity. LinkedIn surveyed a diverse population of 764 members, showing them a generic D&I statement and one which felt more personal and empathetic. 71% said that the empathetic tone cast the employer in a better light, with one participant noting, “the first [statement] felt obligatory, the second felt human.” And that is the crux – we may all be different but we are are all human and that’s what candidates want to get a sense of in a job ad.  

Ultimately, Diversity and Inclusion must be embedded into your recruitment strategy and be not just written into policy but actioned within your clients’ businesses. We must try to move away from token statements on job ads and websites. Candidates expect empathy and action when it comes to D&I, they want to see sincerity and policies being put into practice. In order to attract the best talent, it is imperative to appeal to all sections of society. Your commitment to D&I can be shown through the words that you use and the messaging on your job ads and your website, backed by demonstrable action. The recruitment industry can help ignite real change and that feels monumental.   

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